Paul Dacre Fisked

Someone must leak the letter Paul Dacre wrote the Guardian demanding a column….

“Out in the real world, it was a pretty serious week for news. The US was on the brink of budget default, a British court heard how for two years social workers failed to detect the mummified body of a four-year-old starved to death by his mother, and it was claimed that the then Labour health secretary had covered up unnecessary deaths in a NHS hospital six months before the election.”

Paul DacreA splendid opening from Paul Dacre, reminiscent of certain vast Russian novels:

Eh bien, mon prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now merely estates, the private estates of the Buonaparte family. Non, I warn you, if you don’t say this means war, if you still defend all these vile acts, all these atrocities by an Antichrist (for I really do believe he is the Antichrist), then I no longer know you, you are no longer mon ami, you are no longer, as you put it, my devoted slave. But, anyway, how do you do, how are you? I see I am frightening you, do come and sit down and tell me what’s going on.”

Of course Paul Dacre forgot to mention that this claim about cover-ups was made by Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative health secretary, on Twitter: and that on being contacted by lawyers pointing out that this was libellous, Jeremy Hunt had to write to the Labour health secretary acknowledging that the claim wasn’t true.

That’s a perfect example of a Daily Mail political story in minature. Correct enough not to be legally actionable, but actually completely misleading.

“In contrast, the phoney world of Twitter, the London chatterati and left-wing media was gripped 10 days ago by collective hysteria as it became obsessed round-the-clock by one story – a five-word headline on page 16 in the Daily Mail.”

Lovely modesty, Apparently what the Mail publishes is by definition not serious news, and only “phoney” people would care about it. And
that would be the “London chatterati” and “left-wing media” who were sitting in the Birmingham audience for Question Time, would it?

Let’s pause to enjoy it.

“The screech of axe-grinding was deafening as the paper’s enemies gleefully leapt to settle scores.”

The Daily Mail has made so many enemies. Unfortunately, for the most part, we do not come armed with axes. For example, the enemies of the Daily Mail who came to the vigil outside the Mail offices in Kensington on 25th March 2013, in memory of Lucy Meadows, monstered by the Daily Mail and hounded by tabloid journalists until the day she died, were armed only with placards.

For example, the enemy of the Daily Mail who sued the paper for libel after they published a savage distortion of her life and humiliated her: she didn’t come with an axe but with courage, conviction of the truth, and a lawyer.

Are you one of the Daily Mail’s enemies? Find out at Us Vs Th3m. (Do you have an axe?)

“Leading the charge, inevitably, was the Mail’s bête noir, the BBC.”

Paul Dacre was really, really annoyed by Mehdi Hasan’s lovely diatribe – now with half a million hits on Youtube.

So annoyed that it doesn’t occur to him to mention Channel 4, even though on Thursday night Dacre decided not to come home (he sent a minion to pack an overnight bag) just because a C4 news team was waiting outside his home to ask him a few questions.

“Fair-minded readers will decide themselves whether the hundreds of hours of airtime it devoted to that headline reveal a disturbing lack of journalistic proportionality and impartiality – but certainly the one-sided tone in their reporting allowed Labour to misrepresent Geoffrey Levy’s article on Ralph Miliband.”

Really, Geoffrey Levy wrote of Ralph Miliband with admiration and respect. Oh no, wait, that was the Daily Telegraph, well-known part of the lefty media, who republished their 1994 obituary of Ralph Miliband on 1st October.

“The genesis of that piece lay in Ed Miliband’s conference speech.”

Which obviously, must have been written by Ralph Miliband before he died, and left to his sons in his will for whichever of them became leader of the Labour Party to deliver at the 2013 conference, 19 years after his death. Hence, totally fair to attack Ralph Miliband for Ed Miliband’s speech.

“The Mail was deeply concerned that in 2013, after all the failures of socialism in the twentieth century, the leader of the Labour party was announcing its return, complete with land seizures and price fixing.”

By the way, one of the “failures of socialism” that Paul Dacre is referring to? The NHS.

This is the “land seizures” bit that Paul Dacre objects to:

“Making Britain better than this starts with our economy, but it doesn’t just stop there. It goes to our society as well. I told you earlier on about those market traders in Chesterfield and how they felt that society had lost touch with their values. I think what they were really saying is this: that they put in huge hard work and effort, they bring up their kids in the right way, and they just feel that their kids are going to have a worse life than them. Nowhere is that more true than when it comes to renting or buying your home.
There are 9m people in this country renting a home, many of whom who would rent to buy. 9m people – we don’t just have a cost of living crisis, we have a housing crisis too. In 2010 when we left office there was a problem, there were 1m too few homes in Britain. If we carry on as we are, by 2020, there’ll be 2m too few homes in Britain. That’s the equivalent of five cities the size of Birmingham. We’ve got to do something about it and the next Labour government will.
We’ll say to private developers we can’t just sit on land and refuse to build: we’ll give them a very clear message, either use the land or lose the land, that is what the next Labour government will do.
We’ll say to local authorities that they have a right to grow, and neighbouring local authorities can’t just stop them, we’ll identify new towns and garden cities and we’ll have an aim that at the end of the parliament Britain will be building 200,000 homes a year, more than at any time in a generation. That’s how we make Britain better than this.”

And this is the “price fixing” bit that Paul Dacre objects to:

And to win the race to the top we’ve got to take on the vested interests. In the 1990s we committed to a dynamic market economy: look at those words: dynamic market economy. Think about this: what happens when competition fails? What happens when it fails again, and again, and again? When government has to act. Train companies who put the daily commute out of reach, payday loan companies, who force people into unpayable debt. Energy companies who put prices up and up and up. That’s not good for the economy when one section of society does so well at the expense of others: that’s bad for families, bad for businesses and bad for the consumer.
Some people will blame the companies, but actually, I don’t think that’s where the blame lies – it lies with government for not having had the strength to stand up for the strong, to powerful interest.
Take the gas and electricity companies: we need successful energy companies, to invest in the future in Britain, but there will never be public consent for that investment unless you get a fair deal. The system is broken and we need to fix it.
If we win the election in 2015 the next Labour government will freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017.
You bills will not rise: it will benefit millions of families and millions of businesses
That’s what I mean when I say a government that fights for you and that’s what I mean when I say Britain can do better than this.
The companies aren’t going to like this, because it will cost them more but they’ve been overcharging people for too long in a market that doesn’t work: we need to reset that market and have a regulator on the customer side that also enables the investment we need. That’s how Britain can be better than this.

Paul Dacre argument here is quite explicitly that a politician aged 43 3/4, who lost his father 19 years ago, cannot possibly have developed any independent ideas of his own:

“Surely, we reasoned, the public had the right to know what influence the Labour leader’s Marxist father, to whom he constantly referred in his speeches, had on his thinking.”
So it was that Levy’s article examined the views held by Miliband senior over his lifetime, not just as a 17-year-old youth as has been alleged by our critics.”

And Levy discovered that when Miliband was a 16-year-old Jewish refugee from Belgium – the sort that the Daily Mail of the 1930s hated and wanted sent back to Hitler – he wrote critically about the UK in his diary, as Levy could have found by reading John Simkin’s blog on Ralph Miliband. Levy also discovered that Miliband objected to the Falklands war. Out of that, Geoffrey Levy and Daily Mail subeditors invented a portrait of Ralph Miliband that quite literally everyone who knew him says is false.

“The picture that emerged”

The picture that Paul Dacre wanted to create –

“was of a man who gave unqualified support to Russian totalitarianism until the mid-50s, who loathed the market economy, was in favour of a workers’ revolution, denigrated British traditions and institutions such as the royal family, the church and the army and was overtly dismissive of western democracy.”

No true Brit would ever denigrate the Royal family, the church, the army, or Western democracy. Unless doing so would drive up the Mail’s circulation. Then it would be OK.

“Levy’s article argued that the Marxism that inspired Ralph Miliband had provided the philosophical underpinning of one of history’s most appalling regimes – a regime, incidentally, that totally crushed freedom of expression.”

Obviously, the Daily Mail is for complete freedom of expression. Just so long as you don’t use it to denigrate British traditions and institutions.

“Nowhere did the Mail suggest that Ralph Miliband was evil”

That’s heartwarmingly open-minded of Paul Dacre, isn’t it?

“– only that the political beliefs he espoused had resulted in evil.”

The Windsors on Spitting ImageDenigrating the Royal Family is EVIL, people. Spitting Image was EVIL.

“As for the headline “The Man Who Hated Britain”, our point was simply this: Ralph Miliband was, as a Marxist, committed to smashing the institutions that make Britain distinctively British – and, with them, the liberties and democracy those institutions have fostered.”

The British being a people distinctively known for never, ever not ever speaking disrespectfully of British institutions.

And the Daily Mail shows its respect for “liberties and democracy” by campaigning to crush any denigration of British traditions and institutions.

Because that’s the British thing to do. Also, it’s profitable to Lord Rothermere. But I’m sure that’s a secondary consideration.

“Yes, the Mail is happy to accept that in his personal life, Ralph Miliband was, as described by his son, a decent and kindly man – although we won’t withdraw our view that he supported an ideology that caused untold misery in the world.”

Whereas the Daily Mail only supported the Nazis. The Nazis didn’t cause “untold misery in the world”, did they?


“Yes, we accept that he cherished this country’s traditions of tolerance and freedom – while, in a troubling paradox typical of the left, detesting the very institutions and political system that made those traditions possible.”

A troubling paradox that Paul Dacre meets head on, arguing that it’s important for Britain to crush any dissent against British institutions and the political system, especially when the leader of a British political party is expressing ideas Paul Dacre disapproves of at his party’s national conference.

“And yes, the headline was controversial – but popular newspapers have a long tradition of using provocative headlines to grab readers’ attention. In isolation that headline may indeed seem over the top, but read in conjunction with the article we believed it was justifiable.”

Justifiable in the Daily Mail sense of selling copies and attracting hits on the website.

“Despite this we acceded to Mr Miliband’s demand – and by golly, he did demand – that we publish his 1,000-word article defending his father.”

By golly, Mr Dacre, just like you demanded to publish this 1750-word article plus postscript in the Guardian defending your paper’s right to attack dead men if they’re the fathers of current political leaders.

As Francis Maude, that well-known politician of “the left”, said in response to the Daily Mail’s attack on Ralph Miliband:

“As someone who like Ed Miliband I had a father who was in the public eye and I think it is quite unattractive to seek to ascribe to the children what the father’s beliefs were.”
“Especially when the father is dead and can’t answer for themselves. I think it will actually have done the Daily Mail some damage. I think a lot of people will be pretty revolted by that approach. I don’t think everything that’s unattractive should be made illegal, no.”

However unprecedented it may be for the Daily Mail to publish an article by a Labour politician defending himself against their attacks, they did.

“So it was that, in a virtually unprecedented move, we published his words at the top of our op ed pages. They were accompanied by an abridged version of the original Levy article and a leader explaining why the Mail wasn’t apologising for the points it made.”

Because there’s no way the Daily Mail was going to act like it was sorry for attacking a dead man. Dead people can’t sue.

“The hysteria that followed is symptomatic of the post-Leveson age in which any newspaper which dares to take on the left in the interests of its readers risks being howled down by the Twitter mob who the BBC absurdly thinks represent the views of real Britain.”

It’s lovely to know that Twitter now represents the free press which Paul Dacre fears, isn’t it? That a paper with a circulation of over two million and a hugely popular website is nonetheless scared to bits of people on Twitter noting that what the Daily Mail says is frequently just not true.

“As the week progressed and the hysteria increased, it became clear that this was no longer a story about an article on Mr Miliband’s Marxist father but a full-scale war by the BBC and the left against the paper that is their most vocal critic.”

It’s interesting to note that Dacre omits to mention the Mail on Sunday’s invasion of a Miliband family funeral.

However, he does seem to have his eye on that dratted Question Time video gone viral. Apparently the Birmingham audience represents “the left” in Paul Dacre’s eyes.

“Orchestrating this bile was an ever more rabid Alastair Campbell.”

Apparently it doesn’t cross Paul Dacre’s mind that anyone else on Twitter has thoughts of their own. We are all “orchestrated” by Alastair Campbell, you see.

“ Again, fair-minded readers will wonder why a man who helped drive Dr David Kelly to his death, was behind the dodgy Iraq war dossier and has done more to poison the well of public discourse than anyone in Britain is given so much air-time by the BBC.”

Factcheck: who remembers the Daily Mail campaigning against the Iraq War in 2002 and 2003? Who remembers the Mail pointing out that the Downing Street dossier was dodgy back when it was published? Who remembers the Mail defending Dr David Kelly in July 2003 when he was still alive? (They certainly serialised Norman Baker’s book about his death in 2007.)


“But the BBC’s blood lust was certainly up. Impartiality flew out of the window. Ancient feuds were settled. Not to put too fine a point on things, we were right royally turned over.”

Not to put too fine a point on things: the Daily Mail exposed its hateful face, and the public didn’t like it, to an extent that Paul Dacre had to take notice. But the Daily Mail never misses an opportunity to blame the BBC, so there you go.

“Fair enough, if you dish it out, you take it. But my worry is that there was a more disturbing agenda to last week’s events.”

Loss of Daily Mail sales, or worse yet advertising revenue?

“Mr Miliband, of course, exults in being the man who destroyed Murdoch in this country. Is it fanciful to believe that his real purpose in triggering last week’s row – so assiduously supported by the liberal media which sneers at the popular press – was an attempt to neutralise Associated, the Mail’s publishers and one of Britain’s most robustly independent and successful newspaper groups.”

Wondered how long it would take Dacre to screech CENSORSHIP!

The Daily Mail publishes things that aren’t true all of the time. They’re so notorious for it they’re name-checked in What Leveson proposed was a general right that where a newspaper publishes false statements about a person, that person should have a right to have the paper print a retraction. What Ed Miliband was able to demand – and Paul Dacre with poor grace acceded to – anyone should be able to get.

“Let it be said loud and clear that the Mail, unlike News International, did NOT hack people’s phones or pay the police for stories. I have sworn that on oath.
No, our crime is more heinous than that.”

Much more heinous. The Daily Mail lies.

If a story is only available in the Daily Mail, it is almost certainly not true – or highly misleading. If the story is reported on elsewhere, the story found elsewhere will almost certainly be more accurately reported there. Unless the story has simply been directly plagiarised by the Daily Mail.

“It is that the Mail constantly dares to stand up to the liberal-left consensus that dominates so many areas of British life and instead represents the views of the ordinary people who are our readers and who don’t have a voice in today’s political landscape and are too often ignored by today’s ruling elite.”

As Quentin Letts said on Question Time, to audience hilarity, the Daily Mail claims to be “outside the political tent”. This is the constant complaint of the Tea Party in the US, of straight white men who feel their privilege slipping away from them: they are not in the position of authority they feel their due, and in consequence, they complain they’re being ignored.

It would seem, however, that Paul Dacre isn’t paying attention to the views of Daily Mail readers, judging by the views expressed in the four top-ranked comments responding to the Daily Mail’s attack on Ed Miliband’s speech:

Daily Mail Comments

“The metropolitan classes, of course, despise our readers with their dreams (mostly unfulfilled) of a decent education and health service they can trust, their belief in the family, patriotism, self-reliance, and their over-riding suspicion of the state and the People Who Know Best.”

Anyone remember the time the Daily Mail opposed funding cuts to the NHS, or NHS privatisation, or the PPI funding that’s caused so many Trusts to lurch bankruptcy-wards? Anyone remember the Daily Mail supporting teachers and state-funded schools over Michael Gove and cuts to education?


“These people mock our readers’ scepticism over the European Union and a human rights court that seems to care more about the criminal than the victim. They scoff at our readers who, while tolerant, fret that the country’s schools and hospitals can’t cope with mass immigration.”

Not that they’re racist, BUT…

“In other words, these people sneer at the decent working Britons – I’d argue they are the backbone of this country – they constantly profess to be concerned about.”

Hello UKIP. Hello BNP.

“The truth is that there is an unpleasant intellectual snobbery about the Mail in leftish circles, for whom the word ‘suburban’ is an obscenity. They simply cannot comprehend how a paper that opposes the mindset they hold dear can be so successful and so loved by its millions of readers.”

Oh, come off it. Everyone knows how the Mail is so successful: it peddles hate, and for every reader who loves to buy the hate, they get online links from readers who love to be outraged. It’s a terribly successful business model, and it’s not difficult to comprehend at all.

“Well, I’m proud that the Mail stands up for those readers.”

By attacking dead university lecturers. And transgendered teachers. And gay musicians. And Olympic gold medallists.

“I am proud that our Dignity For The Elderly Campaign has for years stood up for Britain’s most neglected community. Proud that we have fought for justice for Stephen Lawrence, Gary McKinnon and the relatives of the victims of the Omagh bombing, for those who have seen loved ones suffer because of MRSA and the Liverpool Care Pathway. I am proud that we have led great popular campaigns for the NSPCC and Alzheimer’s Society on the dangers of paedophilia and the agonies of dementia. And I’m proud of our war against round-the-clock drinking, casinos, plastic bags, internet pornography and secret courts.”

*clap clap* Let’s not talk about the racism, the sexism, the homophobia, the transphobia, the hate stories about asylum seekers and disabled people and benefits claimants, shall we?

“No other newspaper campaigns as vigorously as the Mail and I am proud of the ability of the paper’s 400 journalists (the BBC has 8,000) to continually set the national agenda on a whole host of issues.”

While at the same time claiming that the Mail is outside the political tent and has no voice in the political landscape. Nice bit of doublethink there.

“I am proud that for years, while most of Fleet Street were in thrall to it, the Mail was the only paper to stand up to the malign propaganda machine of Tony Blair and his appalling henchman, Campbell (and, my goodness, it’s been payback time over the past week!).”

Again, could someone cite me all of those Mail stories written against the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003? I just don’t remember them.

“Could all these factors also be behind the left’s tsunami of opprobrium against the Mail last week? I don’t know but I do know that for a party mired in the corruption exposed by Damian McBride’s book (in which Ed Miliband was a central player) to call for a review of the Mail’s practices and culture is beyond satire.”

Because the Daily Mail is totally not corrupt. It’s pure and innocent and sort of sweet, spreading light and joy wherever it goes. Yes indeed.

“Certainly, the Mail will not be silenced by a Labour party that has covered up unnecessary, and often horrific, deaths in NHS hospitals, and suggests instead that it should start looking urgently at its own culture and practices.”

So far no one is even suggesting the Mail should be silenced. We’re just pointing and laughing. And Paul Dacre doesn’t like it.

“Some have argued that last week’s brouhaha shows the need for statutory press regulation. I would argue the opposite. The febrile heat, hatred, irrationality and prejudice provoked by last week’s row reveals why politicians must not be allowed anywhere near press regulation.”

That’s us, by the way. The millions of people in the UK who don’t read and don’t like the Daily Mail. We are guilty in Paul Dacre’s eyes of “febrile heat, hatred, irrationality and prejudice”. Our representatives must not be allowed to regulate the Daily Mail’s lies.

“And while the Mail does not agree with the Guardian over the stolen secret security files it published, I suggest that we can agree that the fury and recrimination the story is provoking reveals again why those who rule us – and who should be held to account by newspapers – cannot be allowed to sit in judgment on the press.”

Since 1945, there have been four national commissions to look into the behaviour of the Press. Each time the media barons have reacted with fear and loathing to the thought of professional standards that they and their journalists might be required to follow, and have promised that they are perfectly capable of regulating themselves.

The latest version of this, the Press Complaints Commission, is funded via the Press Standards Board of Finance (Pressbof), which is officially “secure and independent financial support for effective self-regulation.” Paul Dacre is a member of Pressbof. Very secure. Very independent.

As Alex Androu noted in March this year, the Press are throwing what amounts to a toddlers’ tantrum over the prospect that there could be legislation setting enforceable standards of accuracy and ethical behaviour.

It’s not a pretty spectacle.

“That is why the left should be very careful about what it wishes for – especially in the light of this week’s rejection by the politicians of the newspaper industry’s charter for robust independent self-regulation.”

Yes, oddly enough, the behaviour of the tabloids before and after Leveson has not inspired anyone with the idea that the newspaper industry can be trusted to self-regulate.

“The BBC is controlled, through the licence fee, by the politicians. ITV has to answer to Ofcom, a government quango. Newspapers are the only mass media left in Britain free from the control of the state.”

Paul Dacre has already forgotten Twitter, though apparently he thinks we’re all orchestrated by Alastair Campbell.

“The Mail has recognised the hurt Mr Miliband felt over our attack on his father’s beliefs. We were happy to give him considerable space to describe how his father had fought for Britain (though a man who so smoothly diddled his brother risks laying himself open to charges of cynicism if he makes too much of a fanfare over familial loyalties).”

Oh dear, Paul Dacre. Are you denigrating the British institution of Labour party elections by claiming Ed Miliband won leadership by a cheat? Does this make you “the man who hated Britain”?

“For the record, the Mail received a mere two letters of complaint before Mr Miliband’s intervention and only a few hundred letters and emails since – many in support. A weekend demonstration against the paper attracted just 110 people.

Well, all the Mail contact addresses are here. Assuming, of course, that Paul Dacre would report accurately how many letters and emails the Mail received.

“It seems that in the real world people – most of all our readers – were far more supportive of us than the chatterati would have you believe.”

But according to a poll published on 6th October:

“In the row between the Mail and Ed Miliband the public come down solidly on the side of Miliband. Even on the principle of writing about and criticising Ralph Miliband’s views and his potential influence on Ed Miliband only 26% of people think that this was acceptable. Asked specifically about the Mail calling Ralph Miliband the “man who hated Britain” just 17% thought the Mail’s language was acceptable, 72% unacceptable. 69% of people think that the Daily Mail should apologise.
“78% of people think that Ed Miliband was right to complain to the Mail, and a quarter of people say the way he has reacted to the Mail’s attack has made them view Ed Miliband more positively.
“While the Daily Mail’s own readers are more likely than the general public to support the Mail’s actions, overall they still think they were unacceptable. By 50% to 42% Mail readers think it was unacceptable for the paper to write about and criticise Ralph Miliband’s views, and by 60% to 29% they think it was unacceptable to use language like the “man who hated Britain”. 57% of the Mail’s own readers think they should apologise.

Ralph Miliband in the Daily Mail

Andy Dawson (@ProfanitySwan) has also fisked Dacre’s column in the Daily Mirror.

1 Comment

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One response to “Paul Dacre Fisked

  1. Pingback: The Gagging Law | Sam Thursfield's Blog

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